Episode 084

Lisa Anderson: We are opening up this week’s inbox, and I’m in studio with Candice. Hey Candice!

Candice Watters: Hey Lisa!

Lisa:  Here she is!

We’re going to answer a listener question on how to make that adjustment from single girl with single girlfriends to single girl with girls who have now gotten married. What do you do? What do you not do? This is very tricky. As I’ve said many times, I’ve had about 12 friends get married this year—can’t even believe it! I’m actually kind of living this right now, so this will be helpful for me as well.

Here we go. She says:

This summer, many of my close friends have gotten married or engaged and I find myself needing to shift from loving my friends as individuals to loving them and their new husbands and fiancés as a couple. I really want to be an advocate for their marriages and continue to invest in them and reflect God’s love to them. The ways that I used to love my friends now seem sort of inappropriate and less valued since they now have someone else to attend to those things.

What advice do you have on practical ways that I can continue these friendships and be an asset to their relationship without being an annoying third wheel? How do I go about pursuing their friendship and blessing them in a way that doesn’t infringe upon their spousal relationship?

Candice: I think a great starting point is the friends’ portions of the Song of Songs. Song of Songs 1:4 says—this is the friends refrain, and so as the beloved and the lover are talking to one another, the friends say: “We rejoice and delight in you; we will praise your love more than wine.”  And so I think it’s right, it’s good for friends to come alongside and celebrate the new love. To celebrate the engagement, to celebrate the marriage, to shower the young couple with gifts—they don’t have to be elaborate or overly expensive. But to really put your heart into it, and to affirm marriage, to esteem their marriage.

The challenge is that you can’t love the couple the way that you loved your single girlfriend. You’re right, you were meeting needs for her that her husband will meet now. And so you have to be really careful because you don’t want to be inappropriate in how you “love the new husband”; that’s her job.

I think this is a reminder of why it’s so helpful to have a friend group that isn’t just peers. Because, Lisa, as you said you have 12 friends that have gotten married this year. If all of your friends are in the exact same life stage as you are and they all get married… oh my goodness! You’re left friendless for a time because new brides do have a tendency to shift their focus away from their girlfriends toward their beloved, their lover, their husband—the lover is the term Solomon used. And that’s appropriate. That’s the way it is. Having been a new bride a long time ago, I do still remember that that first year, and even the months leading up to the wedding, my friends would say, “You’re never around anymore, you’re not in our lives, your head isn’t in the game…” And all I could say was, “I’m sorry. I think you’ll understand someday.” And they eventually all went down that path and said, “Oh, I understand.” And they did the exact same thing to their friends.

So it’s a good reason to have friends who are already married and who are older and who are past that first year, because that first year is kind of totally focused in on the marriage relationship time. And Deuteronomy confirms that: 24:5 says “If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.” And there’s something about that first year, it’s a very intense learning curve, it’s a very emotional time, it’s a very sensual time, it’s just a very intense year. After that first year, things really do kind of mellow out.

I know that when my friends get married, I don’t plan to see a whole lot of them that first year. And I just kind of give them the freedom to be focused on their marriage, that doesn’t mean I don’t invite them to things any more, but I try not to be offended when they decline.

So I say it’s time to shift the focus to the other friends who are still single and rejoice in the marriage, rejoice with your friends. Be there if they ask for help but try not to have expectations.

Lisa:  I think that’s good advice, Candice. And I think it’s very good that you gave that time frame. This is not a forever thing. And I think it is, like you said, it’s good to not only have girlfriends in that same peer group, to have them from a vast array… And to recognise that, like in my case for example, several of my best friends got married and then moved away. So that entire relationship has kind of been severed and now we’re trying to find whole new ways of keeping in touch and it’s working pretty well. But I did have to remove expectations; it’s not going to be that day-by-day, play-by-play kind of thing that we used to do.

I do think it’s interesting though, and I want you to address this really quickly Candice, how there’s that danger that we’ve seen here at Focus on the Family that Boundless has had to scoop in and pick up, in that in marriage and transitioning into married life, you want to make sure at the same time that you don’t get sucked into a black hole that, when that year ends all of a sudden you find yourself floundering because you completely disassociated yourself from friendships or the church… I have lots of friends who have gotten married now over the past three or four years who stopped going to church, or they stopped being involved in a community at church and all of a sudden now they can’t re-integrate, and they’re kind of at sea, they’re lost… And many of them had struggles—whether it’s the first year of marriage or beyond, they’ve found themselves struggling, whether it’s in their marriage specifically, or whether it’s just adjusting to that whole new way of life, and all of a sudden they’re trying to talk to their husband who’s like, tell me just what I need to fix, and they don’t have that sounding board…

So how do you find that balance in that?

Candice: I think one big thing is to, as a couple, when you’re newly married, pray for and look for other couples to be friends with. To be friends as couples, so you’re not so much doing the one-offs of his best friend and her best friend, but you’re doing couple friendships and doing things with other couples.

I would also totally echo what you’re saying: don’t disengage from your church. You need the body more than ever that first year of marriage. Gary Thomas has talked about “shell-shocked newlyweds” and how it really can be a rough year and a lot of couples report that. It doesn’t have to be a rough year, but it often is. And so to get through that and have a fruitful first year you need the support of other believers and people who’ve been married longer than you who can help you through that.

One point of encouragement I would give to the young or newly-married bride is: don’t forget your single friends, at least pray for them. And let them know you’re praying for them—not in a patronising way but in a genuinely friendly concerned way, to be kind to your friends. Let kindness guide you even if you don’t have a lot of time with them, drop them a note, tell them you miss them. Let them know this is an intense year and you’ll be back soon, and don’t forget me. Keep the friendships alive but both sides really need to recalibrate expectations.

Lisa:  I think that’s good. I think, there’s got to be, in the course of a year, at some point, you’re going to want to go to a movie and your husband doesn’t want to go, so call up your friends and just go with them. [Laughter] I don’t think Candice is saying that this year is just going to be 24/7, you know, you can’t do anything else.

Candice: I just remember a friend who lived nearby, moved to be close to me after grad school and I was newly married. And at one point she shared with me that she was frustrated, because she felt like whenever we did anything, it was her and me and Steve. Because Steve and I would invite her over for dinner, we would ask her to join us for things and I think she felt like a third wheel. We didn’t feel like she was third wheel, but that’s where I was at, I didn’t want to leave Steve and go off and do girl things, that was just not really that important to me that first year.

But then it did start to change, so again, this is a season and if we can be aware of that, it helps.

Lisa:  So it took Candice a while, but now she’s just tired of Steve and so she’s all about the girlfriends. [Laughter]

Candice: I still go out with my girlfriends and think I’d rather be home with Steve. I think I’m just weird that way, I don’t know.

Lisa:  That’s good.

Candice: He’s my best friend.

Lisa:  And I will say just in closing that single girls out there you need to realise that as these girls get married and start investing in their homes and in their husbands, make some new friends. We’re supposed to be making friends throughout our lives; don’t just sit there and mope and be like, I invested in these friendships and whatever. That’s good that you did, and you grew because of it. And they’re still your friends, and they’ll remain your friends, but make some new friends too.

Candice: And don’t be bitter. Because it will be your time and you will be the exact same way. We go through this; it’s just the way we’re wired.

Lisa:  Do not be bitter, because it is ugly and we don’t support it. We’re not into it here at the Boundless Show, don’t do it.

Thank you Candice!

Candice: You’re welcome. Always my pleasure.

Lisa:  Write to us at the Boundless Show here at editor [at] boundless [dot] org. We want to hear from you.

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